Biology Is Technology: The Promise, Peril, and New Business of Engineering Life

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Overview

Technology is a process and a body of knowledge as much as a collection of artifacts. Biology is no different—and we are just beginning to comprehend the challenges inherent in the next stage of biology as a human technology. It is this critical moment, with its wide-ranging implications, that Robert Carlson considers in Biology Is Technology. He offers a uniquely informed perspective on the endeavors that contribute to current progress in this area—the science of biological systems and the technology used to manipulate them.

In a number of case studies, Carlson demonstrates that the development of new mathematical, computational, and laboratory tools will facilitate the engineering of biological artifacts—up to and including organisms and ecosystems. Exploring how this will happen, with reference to past technological advances, he explains how objects are constructed virtually, tested using sophisticated mathematical models, and finally constructed in the real world.

Such rapid increases in the power, availability, and application of biotechnology raise obvious questions about who gets to use it, and to what end. Carlson’s thoughtful analysis offers rare insight into our choices about how to develop biological technologies and how these choices will determine the pace and effectiveness of innovation as a public good.

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Editorial Reviews

Wired
In this new book, bioengineer Robert H. Carlson forecasts the rise of the cell and the subsequent emergence of biological techniques for making fuels, synthetic DNA that builds new organisms, and reverse-engineered viruses for making vaccines. Biologists, Carlson says, are the new engineers, and the future is in remodeling life as we know it.
Nature

[Carlson] presents an informative view of the future prospects for biotechnology and its regulation.
— Michael A. Goldman

American Scientist

Biology Is Technology is essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand the current state of biotechnology and the opportunities and dangers it may create.
— Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

The Economist
A thoughtful attempt to put what we think we know about biotechnology into a larger context, by a physicist-turned-bioentrepreneur.
Arti K. Rai
Biology is Technology makes a tremendous contribution to public analysis of a very important emerging field. Although various commentators have discussed particular aspects of synthetic biology (e.g. risk regulation, intellectual property considerations), I am not aware of a book that encapsulates all of the varying strands of the debate. In addition, the book takes a set of provocative and interesting stances on the subjects that it addresses. It is obviously written by someone who has been a longstanding participant in, and commentator on, the field. Although I do not necessarily agree with all of the positions taken by the book, they are well-defended and thought through.
Drew Endy
Carlson clearly frames a fresh future for biotechnology. Each chapter, from technology trends to property rights and biosecurity conundrums, invites close reading and vibrant discussion.
Stewart Brand
Since Rob Carlson is THE authoritative tracker of progress in biotech, this book is the most complete---and exciting&mdashchronicle&mdash of the technological revolution that promises to dominate this century.
Nature - Michael A. Goldman
[Carlson] presents an informative view of the future prospects for biotechnology and its regulation.
American Scientist - Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
Biology Is Technology is essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand the current state of biotechnology and the opportunities and dangers it may create.
Nature
[Carlson] presents an informative view of the future prospects for biotechnology and its regulation.
— Michael A. Goldman
American Scientist
Biology Is Technology is essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand the current state of biotechnology and the opportunities and dangers it may create.
— Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674060159
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2011
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 969,998
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert H. Carlson is a Principal at Biodesic LLC.
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Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments

  1. What Is Biology?
  2. Building with Biological Parts
  3. Learning to Fly (or Yeast, Geese, and 747s)
  4. The Second Coming of Synthetic Biology
  5. A Future History of Biological Engineering
  6. The Pace of Change in Biological Technologies
  7. The International Genetically Engineered Machines Competition (iGEM)
  8. Reprogramming Cells and Building Genomes
  9. The Promise and Peril of Biological Technologies
  10. The Sources of Innovation and the Effects of Existing and Proposed Regulations
  11. Laying the Foundations for a Bio-Economy
  12. Of Straightjackets and Springboards for Innovation
  13. Open Source Biology, or Open Biology?
  14. What Makes a Revolution?

  • Notes
  • Index

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